Marge and Steve slid onto the two remaining Naugahyde seats in the dining car. Across from them sat the tattooed man and his very large wife.
"Howdy! I'm Jim and this here's Ann," Jim said, extending his hand.
"I'm Steve and this is Marge," Steve said, as handshakes were exchanged over the table. "What have we got to eat?"
A waiter sidled up. "There's beef, chicken, salmon, or lasagna. The menu's on the table. I've got red and white wine, or beer."
Marge opted for white wine without raising her eyes from the menu. "Where you from?" Jim asked, as the waiter poured from pitchers.
"We're heading back to Connecticut," Steve answered. "Should be a five hour drive from Lorton. How 'bout you?" The women remained silent.
Marge raised her wine glass for a taste. Just as the liquid rolled off her tongue, something warm and furry brushed against her ankle. Her scream became a rasping choke. Steve gave her a few whacks on the back that would have dislodged a side of beef. "You OK?"
"Get me out," she yelled, pushing Steve into the aisle. "There's a rat under the table!"
"That ain't no rat," Jim said, laughing. "That's Ann's cat. She won't go nowhere without Whiskers."
"I think I'll have dinner in the compartment," Marge said. "Beef will be fine." She turned and started down the aisle.
"Sorry, folks," Steve said to Jim and Ann. "Guess she got a good scare." He paused and placed an order for two beef dinners for compartment #216.
Their sofa had transformed into two bunk beds, the lower one six inches wider than the upper. "Can you sit on the bed and eat?" Steve asked. "I'll sit in the chair."
"I can't even get in the room, let alone sit on the bed," Marge said, still red in the face. Her thick shin was wedged between the lower bunk and the sink cabinet.
"Just a minute," Steve said from out in the corridor. With a twist and simultaneous shove, the leg dislodged and Marge fell onto the bunk.
"Ow! Thanks a lot," she said with undisguised sarcasm.
"My pleasure," Steve said with reciprocated sarcasm.
"I don't know how I'm going to get up this ladder," Marge said, pointing next to her. "Besides, I'll bump my head on the ceiling if I try to go to the bathroom."
"I'll sleep up there," Steve said. Their meals arrived and they ate in silence.
During the night, Steve swung his feet over the top bunk, forgetting that webbing hung from the ceiling. The more he tried to disentangle them, the more his size thirteens became engaged. "Shit!" he said, waking Marge.
"I'm caught and I can't get out."
Marge climbed out of her warm nest and positioned one foot on the ladder. "You need to come a little higher so you can reach my feet," Steve said.
By the glow of the night light Marge lifted her other foot but it missed the next rung. She slipped backward onto the floor. "You OK?" Steve asked.
"I think I wrenched my neck," Marge said, climbing onto her knees. Steve hit the porter's button.
Leonard arrived in less than a minute. "I'll call for a nurse we have on board," he said, disengaging Steve's two feet from the webbing. Marge had pulled herself into the chair.
Ten minutes later, there was a knock on their steel door. "I'm the nurse you called for," a woman said, peeking in. "Oh, it's you two. I'm Ann - remember? What's the problem?"
Ann flopped from the outer corridor onto the bottom bunk like a beached whale. Marge crawled from the chair and sat on the floor next to her. As Ann massaged, Marge's neck relaxed. "Can you make it down on your own, Steve?" Marge asked.
"Yeah. Thanks, Ann."
In the morning, Steve attempted to shower from a sitting position on the toilet. It was the only way his six-foot frame could fit in the cubicle. When he'd finished, he turned the shower knob to "Off." The water refused.
"Marge, I can't turn this thing off," he yelled through the bathroom door.
"Well, I can't open the door without flooding the floor. I'll call the porter."
"Good morning," said Leonard, feigning cheerfulness. "How may I help you?"
"My husband can't turn off the shower in there."
"I'll call a plumber we have on board."
In ten minutes there was a knock on the steel door. "I'm the plumber - oh, it's you two. I'm Jim - remember? Amtrak hires my wife and me for this route. Marge, you'd better git outside 'less you want to git wet. Steve, you got a towel on in there?"
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.